Five elements to help you choose a quick connector

The use of liquid cooling technology to reduce the heat generated by electronic products is widely used, including gaming machines, supercomputers and medical equipment. But the most recognized technology in today's data center industry is that server manufacturers are turning to liquid cooling technology for economical and efficient thermal management. In particular, quick connectors play an integral role in cooling system performance and reliability.

For a long time, the formation of a cost-effective and safe cooling system to eliminate waste heat is a growing problem for data centers. Over the past decade, the power consumed by servers has risen sharply due to the increased power density of server racks. Ten years ago, a single server rack consumed 250W to 1.5kW, and today's racks consume about 10 kW. In the next decade, power consumption is expected to reach 50kW. Moreover, it is estimated that in 2020, the CO2 generated by the data center industry will be equal to the amount produced by the aviation industry.

Traditionally, data centers use air to dissipate heat. However, the method of removing cold air through the server rack is inefficient and costly. Sixty percent of the air-conditioning is lost due to bypass and mixing with the air, and the cooling cost may be higher than the cost of running the server. With the speed of computer servers and the increase in the density of data center racks, the idea of ​​achieving adequate cooling through air circulation is not realistic.

On the other hand, from the point of view of quantity, water is 3,500 times more efficient at storing and migrating heat than air. In fact, in a recent survey of multiple industries, 41% of respondents believe that the combination of air and liquid cooling is the primary cooling method for data centers. Liquid cooling is the best choice to increase cooling efficiency while reducing air conditioning costs.

Computer cooling using liquids dates back to the mid-1960s, when IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) implemented liquid cooling on its 704 mainframe. Nearly 50 years later, IBM recently used processor-grade liquid cooling technology for a supercomputer at a Swiss university to cool the processor through water circulation and pump it to the floor heating system so that the waste heat can be used for heat. According to IBM estimates, the liquid cooling system consumes 40% less energy than the air-cooled server, and the reuse of waste heat also reduces the carbon footprint by about 85%.

Five elements to help you choose a quick connector

Figure 1: Advantages of liquid cooling

Key components to ensure liquid cooling reliability

One of the key components in a liquid cooling system is the quick connector. These quick connectors connect the hose that carries the cooling liquid to the single server and center manifold on the server rack (connected to the central heat exchanger) (see Figure 2). The more important role of the quick connect is the more obvious, because the connector needs to remain connected for a long time, then can be easily disconnected, and the valve will not fail. In addition, when the server needs to be repaired or replaced, the connector must be able to be easily disconnected without dripping or spilling any coolant onto sensitive electronics.

In liquid cooling systems that reduce heat, quick-break connectors play a large role.

Figure 2: Server cooling quick disconnect

The main concern for server designers and data center operators is the reliability of the system. According to Ponemon InsTItute, the average cost of any data center outage is more than $690,000. One of the basic ways to ensure high reliability is to use spare parts when the main components fail. Liquid cooling systems typically use a backup pump to prevent leakage of circulating fluid. However, a single quick connector in a refrigeration system is also a point of failure. A failed connector is not backed up, so any leak can invalidate the entire server rack. Therefore, the design, construction, and quality of the quick connector are critical.

When choosing a quick connector for cooling servers and other high-end computers, there are five things to keep in mind to ensure reliability:

1. Strong design and structure

The quick connector of the liquid cooling system needs to be durable and sturdy. It can also be used for low voltage applications and can be connected for long periods of time before disconnection is required. The pressure drop across the connection should also be low, which minimizes throttling effects and reduces the load on the cooling system pump.

Due to the higher durability, some liquid cooling systems use quick connectors for the hydraulic industry. However, these connected seals and built-in valves are not suitable for low pressure applications, and in these applications the connectors need to be connected for a period of months or years. When choosing a quick connector for a liquid refrigeration system, look for connectors that are specifically designed for low voltage applications and that are rugged.

Technicians need to be able to easily disconnect the server's cooling circuit without the risk of water or other coolant leaking onto sensitive electronics.

2. "Dry disconnect" ability

The quick-breaking, non-drip connector has two built-in valves that automatically shut off the fluid path when the connector is disconnected. One of the two-way valved connectors is designed with a built-in valve that leaves a small amount of liquid at the female end when the connector is disconnected. After the connector is disconnected, this small amount of liquid drops out. Although not a lot of drops - maybe just one or two drops - it can also pose safety or reliability hazards around electronic products.

In contrast, a true dry disconnect connector with a flat port valve, the coolant only has a thin layer on the valve end surface. In fact, this eliminates the possibility of liquid dripping onto important components. Precision-made connectors with built-in flat port valves are ideal for liquid cooling.

3. Easy to operate

It is critical to be able to easily disconnect the server cooling circuit without causing any leakage. Whether it's a plug-in connection or a twist-lock connection, the valve needs to be shut down very reliably, even if it has been connected for months or years. Another aspect of ease of operation is that the connectors are color coded, which ensures heat to heat and cold to cold connections in the circulation line. The cooling system is equipped with a well-designed quick-disconnect connector that simplifies maintenance and ensures availability.

Technicians who are good at connecting and disconnecting Ethernet connections and power connections have little difficulty in quick-break connections.

4. Elastic seal

Connectors used in liquid cooling applications are connected for extended periods of time. Once disconnected and reconnected, the connector must be functioning properly to ensure that no cooling droplets or leaks. Improperly designed or fabricated seals create a "device" that can cause a leak when disconnected. The seal must also be compatible with the coolant to prevent the seal from swelling, shrinking, breaking or bending. In some cases, the connector may have a double seal to enhance the seal and ensure greater reliability. However, double seals can cause more friction in the system and, if not properly designed, can in turn reduce reliability.

5. Material compatibility

Most plastics and metals are compatible with coolants, such as water-glycol mixtures. However, if your cooling system uses dedicated coolant, determine if the coolant is compatible with the connector housing, seals, valves, and hoses. Care should be taken when selecting a metal connector for the cooling system. Metal connectors may come into contact with the server chassis and may cause electrolysis and corrosion due to differences in metal at the point of contact. Products developed from metal ball-shaped hydraulic connectors are not suitable for cooling, so check the compatibility of the materials carefully. Compatibility issues can be avoided by using metal connectors specifically for liquid cooling.

Five elements to help you choose a quick connector
In liquid cooling systems that reduce heat, quick-break connectors play a large role.

to sum up

Today's electronic products are evolving faster and more power-hungry, and the most efficient and economical way to dissipate the heat they generate is the liquid cooling of computers and servers. By cooling the heat source, the demand for air conditioning and the consequent cost and carbon impact are reduced.

The design of refrigeration systems is constantly evolving, and it is important to understand the role of quick-break connectors in these systems and how they can ensure system reliability. The long-term performance of the connector is ensured by evaluating the robustness of the connector, the compatibility of the valve, seal and material. To make the best choice for your application, you need to work with suppliers who understand liquid cooling requirements and offer a variety of connector options, including purpose-specific cooling connectors and custom designed connectors.

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